Saturday, January 14, 2012

Severed Ties

I had kind of a big shock to my system today. It occurred while reading a post on one of my favorite blogs that included photos of Freedom Tower, a.k.a. One World Trade Center, that is currently rising over the site where the World Trade Center (WTC) once stood in New York City. I have kind of mixed feelings about whether they should have built anything at all to fill that empty space gutted so suddenly from the heart of the city on the morning of September 11, 2001. How could you ever fill the void left on that day?

Among the jumble of emotions is also the feeling that I should be in the mix of concrete finishers and ironworkers as they create this massive structure out of thin air. I ought to be following in the footsteps of my father (dubbed "Hopalong" by his peers) who had a hand in building the WTC and my grandfather (affectionately known as "Harry the Bull") who helped erect the Empire State Building.

Building the tallest buildings in New York is almost a family tradition and I'm watching it slip from my hands with the completion of each story of this shining new tower. I think I could fit right in on the construction site. I still have one of my dad's old tools to do the job. It's these tin snips pictured here that he and his father before him (both metal lathers out of local 46 in NYC) wielded to cut wire lath and more. I've held on to them just in case a circumstance like this one arose.

There are probably a few stumbling blocks I would have to sort out before getting to work, like acquiring a union card for one. Besides that, a pair of snips might not be the most important tool for a would-be lather like me to carry on his belt. That distinction would probably belong to the pliers. That is if they still use them on the job, things in the construction trade tend to change with the passing of time. Pliers and wire are what a lather would normally use to tie together the steel reinforcing bars and other elements that keep our modern structures standing and the ceilings above our heads from falling. Left with nothing but a pair of old tin snips, all I can do is let the ties that have bound me and my forefathers together in this tradition of building become forever severed.

What would my dad say if he were alive at this moment in time? I think he would say what he always said when coming to this kind of crossroads of fate. He'd say, "Oh well, whaddya gonna do?" and then he would keep moving on.

Further interesting reading on ironworkers in NYC: A Mohawk Trail To the Skyline; Indian Ironworkers Return... (This is an OBG from the NYT and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Charlie LeDuff.) 

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